“suffocating the faithful” and a new blog

On Sunday evening I read David Aikman’s commentary in the December issue of Christianity Today, Suffocating the Faithful: Will the last Mideast church leader be sure to turn off the lights? In this short article Aikman points out the alarming rate that Christianity is shrinking in the Middle East.

No one knows precisely how many of the Middle East’s 293 million people are Christians, but nearly everyone acknowledges that Middle Eastern Christianity has been in steady decline for decades. In some local areas, officials record declines of 75 percent or more. Recent violence in the region is accelerating that decline. Some observers estimate that the region’s population of 10 to 15 million Christians will continue to spiral downward during the next 50 years.

Aikman also acknowledges what other Mid East experts have been saying for the past few years about the war in Iraq,

Christians by the tens of thousands are among the 2 million Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria. It is one of the great unintended consequences of the war in Iraq that the U.S., a Christian-majority nation, led its military forces to liberate a Muslim nation, leading to a dramatic drop in religious freedom for this nation’s Christian minority.

It’s a complex situation, but there are a few hopeful suggestions included in the last few paragraphs. Take 5 minutes to read the entire article.

On a related note, I’ve added a new site to the Regular Reading section of this blog’s sidebar. Pilgrim without a shrine is written by a thoughtful- and anonymous- friend who has quite a bit of experience and expertise in the Middle East. It looks like we can expect a new post each Friday that will attempt to interpret and clarify the glut of headlines for that complex region of the world. From what I can tell from the first post, Thoughts on Bethlehem before Epiphany, there will be a bunch of insightful and provocative stuff coming. You might consider adding this blog to your bookmarks or blog reader.

rednoW’s top 10 lists

renow.pngYou can’t look anywhere this time of year without stumbling onto a “Top-10” or “Best of 2007” list. I could point towards a number of different lists that I’ve enjoyed looking at the past couple of weeks, but since I do some writing for rednoW.com, I’ll point out a few of the lists we’ve pulled together on that site:

on advent and the golden compass

I read two brief articles this morning from Christianity Today that I’d like to recommend here. The first, The Obstacles of Advent, was written by my friend Skye on how his church is attempting to make space for the Advent season. They’ve gotten very practical about this…

In addition, beginning in late October we start encouraging everyone to complete their Christmas shopping before December 1. This frees up time during Advent to connect with others, and hours that would otherwise be spent at the mall can now be used to serve someone in the name of Christ. It seems so simple, but I can’t tell you how many people have been blessed by this suggestion.

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chicago cubs: limericks and photos

cubsfan.jpgTypically on Saturday I try to share a video that I’ve found to be intriguing, funny, provocative, or weird. However, given that we are in the waning days of September and the Cubs have not yet disappeared into their familiar oblivion, it only seems right to highlight the team from the north side.

Sox fans, stay cool. I know it’s been a tough year and this isn’t meant to be salt in the wounds. I confess that I tend to be more interested in the Cubs than the Sox, but that has more to do with my indoctrination into the National League at a young age. But that’s a story for another day.

So, no video today. Instead, take a look at these great photos from Wrigley along with some quirky limericks that both celebrate and bemoan the life of a Cubs fan.

mother teresa’s long dark night

time.jpgThe cover of this week’s Time Magazine features an article titled, The Secret Life of Mother Teresa. Why does a national magazine feature Mother Teresa 10 years after her death? According to the article a new book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, brings to light correspondence that has not been widely read until now. These letters reveal a side of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life that will likely be surprising to many.

…in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. “Jesus has a very special love for you,” she assured Van der Peet. “[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,–Listen and do not hear–the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me–that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

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rick morrissey on michael vick

Whether or not you’ve wanted follow the Michael Vick saga it has been hard to miss. Basically, the star quarterback for the Atalanta Falcons has been accused of holding brutal dog fights on his property in Virginia. Allegedly some of the dogs were tortured and killed. It is now being reported that Vick will plead guilty to a conspiracy charge later this month. People are now wondering whether he will ever play in the NFL again.

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